Because babies outgrow things so quickly, you're bound to find some wonderful slightly used items at good prices. Check out flea markets, garage sales, and consignment shops, grandma's attic, and friends who have moved on from this stage. Don't go overboard buying too much. Babies don't need as much as our consumer-oriented society would like us to believe; plus you'll probably have a baby shower. Register at a department store for the baby shower and plan on getting things that don't match, anyway.
Check that all items meet safety standards and contact the manufacturer to make sure an older item has not been recalled. (Often if it has, you can get a repair kit or a coupon for a discount on a similar item.)
What about that old Raggedy Ann doll you loved as a child but would never want your child chewing on? Put it in a shadow box on the wall. With a fabric background and an alphabet block, it's a treasured heirloom.
Try out items before you buy them. Your dream of nursing your baby in that lovely bent-wood rocking chair may turn into a nightmare when you find out the seat's too hard, it leans back too far for balance, and the arms are in the wrong place for cradling the baby.
What do you do once you've collected several lovely pieces that don't match in style or color? Susan Welch Heeney, member of the American Society of Interior Decorators and creator of www.DecoratingStudio.com, says you're on your way to "shabby chic." "All you need to do to pull the different pieces of furniture together is to paint them in a soft white. Plus, in a shabby chic nursery, the different mix of linens will look fabulous!"
Babies spend a lot of time on their backs. Consider things from that point of view. Pretty mobiles of wooden ducks are just brown lines when seen from below. The white ceiling that makes the room look bigger to you seems very far away, and dull, to a baby. Heeney recommends painting the ceiling to "bring it down" to baby's level, and to add decorations to give him something interesting to look at when naptime's over and he's waiting for you.
Paint is the easiest and cheapest way to change a room. Since babies prefer to be someplace warm and cozy, opt for darker (but not dark) colors. If you're having trouble selecting colors, try this decorator's trick: find a fabric or picture or baby item you love, and find paint chips for three or four colors that match it. Or take the photo of your dream nursery to the paint store and ask them to match the colors.
If you have a flair or just an urge for the artistic—indulge it in the nursery. Paint the mural you've dreamed of. Put nursery rhymes on the ceiling. Try stenciling. Make your own artwork. Your baby will love it.